5 actionable ways to avoid the comparison trap
You've seen the quotes written in flowery or calligraphy-ied (is that a word) writing...splashed in watercolor in a beautiful IG feed...
At the heart of every single one of these encouraging and uplifting statements is a deep seeded truth : you have worth. You DO matter and what you have to say/create/provide is meaningful in some way.
Comparison is ever present in all facets of life and obviously doesn't just exist in the photography or creative industry. I felt the same pull of unworthiness, never good enough-ness, someone is always doing it better than me-ness when I was in college, when I was in corporate america, heck just living everyday life with other people....it's just always there.
I've given up trying to force myself to not fall into the comparison trap. Its human nature, it's GOING to happen. No matter how many times you post an uplifting saying on Instagram or read an encouraging blog post, no matter how many times the tears well up because you realize someone out there (who you didn't really realize struggles with it too) "gets" it, get's you...those feelings of inadequacy creep in when you least expect them. Or sometimes exactly when you expect them....during hour three of scrolling through facebook feeds of uber successful and talented (whomever) who is doing all the things YOU want to be doing but aren't for (whatever reason.) Maybe they've got 5 years on you. Maybe they don't have three kids in the house. Maybe staying 120lbs comes naturally to them. Maybe their husband joined in business with them.
Maybe, just maybe, they are called for a different purpose than you are. Maybe, just maybe, someone is looking at you from afar and thinking...."I wish I had the courage to start MY own business..."
Let that sink in for a minute.
When the comparison darkness begins its slow and meticulous creep into the window of your soul, you have to take action. Just wanting it to stop is not enough. You have to confront it head on. You have to look it in the eye and say, "not today....today is about doing at least one thing to move my business forward...and despite what everyone else is doing or accomplishing, I will move forward."
Here are 5 actionable steps to get out of that slump and continue moving forward!
ENCOURAGE SOMEONE ELSE
This is one of the first things I do when I feel the comparison or "I'm not worthy" monster creeping around in my environment. I don't often feel jealousy or envy or anger towards others in my industry's success, but I do often feel discouraged. Comparing my current chapter to their finished novel. When those feeling strike, I make it a point to somehow, in someway, encourage someone else.
Liking a post on fb takes a millisecond. Retweeting something takes about a second. Double tapping a photo or taking a second to comment on an IG photo takes slightly longer but we still are in the seconds category. Despite all of our best efforts to not let social media be the end all be all gage for our self worth, a little social media love never hurt ANYONE. There is SO MUCH information floating around out there, every day we are bombarded with content, content, content and oftentimes creating content ourselves. We put a lot of hard work into creating content that is helpful and having that recognized in some way shape or form means a lot! Be social. Provide feedback and encouragement. People notice. And taking the focus off of you, is always good for the soul.
GET OFF OF SOCIAL MEDIA
I know this may seem counter-intuitive based on the above, but I am a firm believer in taking breaks or extended breaks from all thing social media. If you are feeling large amounts of discouragement about where you are in your journey and you are also spending inordinate amounts of time online or involved in social media, take a time out. Delete the apps off of your phone for a week. Take a weekend and don't check FB or IG at all for the whole weekend. Set social media guidelines for your workday (only allowed to look for one hour a day etc...). You will be surprised how much your spirits lift and your creativity flows when you are left to your OWN devices and imagination to complete your tasks or projects.
TALK TO SOMEONE
Call a friend. Talk to your spouse. Ask a mentor or another creative out for lunch or coffee. As entrepreneurs, we often are isolated and lonely since the majority of us work on our own and not surrounded by people all day long (well, people who aren't begging you to go outside and play or make them a snack or tugging on your pant leg asking a million questions.) Often the isolated nature of jobs leads to increased frustration and discouragement, especially when we see others succeeding. Getting out of your head and back into the real world with real people who you know and see in person jolts you right out of that place. Make a habit of it.
LIST YOUR GOALS AND FOCUS ON YOUR WHY
If you don't have a printed list of your goals (short term and long term) posted near your desk or workspace....do it! Having a visual reminder of where you want to go and what you want to accomplish can instantly help you to refocus and leave that comparison monster in the dust. When we begin to let comparison and feelings of discouragement control our lives, we are more focused on what OTHERS are doing or achieving rather than what WE are trying to achieve. No one meets their own goals by spending all their time thinking about other people's goals. That's just silly.
List out all of your short term goals by month, 6 months and a year and then also list out your longer term goals for 5 + years. Make them SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely). I also recommend writing down your WHY (more about that HERE) and having that somewhere where you can see it as well during the day. Even though our WHY is often something that we are able to spout off at any moment, seeing the words written down has a tendency to refocus our brain to the task at hand. It grounds you and gives you a sense of purpose. If you have ever felt like giving up your business or journey completely, it is your WHY that will often bring you back from the brink of quitting and help you stay on your path!
TAKE STOCK OF WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN
This one is hard for me and often the last thing I resort to. It's easy when you have so many ideas about where you want to go, that you completely forget about where you've been. I've been in business for four years and the progress I've made is astounding! Small business owners and entrepreneurs are often times big dreamers and low on patience. They want to accomplish a LOT in a little bit of time. But in reality, life just doesn't work that way. It takes hard work, sweat equity and TIME to bring those dreams to life.
When you look back to see where you've been and all of the lessons you've learned along the way, you can center yourself on the fact that you HAVE accomplished big things already, so if you keep doing what you are doing then you will likely continue to accomplish your goals.
The comparison below is one that I consider often. This is Caitlin and she trusted me when I FIRST started taking pictures and continued to trust and encourage me along my journey. The photo on the left was about a month after I picked up a camera and the photo on the right was almost exactly two years later. Not only has my knowledge of the technical side of photography grown by leaps and bounds, but my business knowledge has as well. These photos represent all of that. I may have many, many BIG goals that I aim to achieve in the future and I do get frustrated that I'm not there yet, but these photos remind me that I have come so far and will continue to grow.